iUniverse is proud to welcome a blog article from Sandra Dreis, author of “Ecowarriors: Book One – The Bluffs of Baraboo”. Sandra’s debut novel won the Nautilus Book Award (Silver) in YA fiction for 2015. Congratulations to Sandra on such a splendid achievement! Below, she tells us more about herself and her book.
My debut novel Ecowarriors: Book One – The Bluffs of Baraboo, is a work of YA Fiction that can be described as an eco-thriller or teen adventure with an environmental theme. Because my writing does bear a strong “message” about taking action to help save the beauty of our land, I’m especially proud to have won a 2015 Silver Nautilus Book Award. In addition, Kirkus Reviews gave Ecowarriors an excellent review which can be found online. Though the topic of frac-sandmining may not sound like a dream topic for teenagers, the book moves along from one adventure to another.
Attending Drama School in New York City at the age of 20 had a major impact on my life. Later as I taught Drama and Dance in the public schools, I played with writing short original scripts for my students on topics they were studying from science to dental health—from Polar Bears to Runaway Teeth. I found that I enjoyed writing dialogue and could often hear my characters “talking a blue streak.”
My novel’s target audience is primarily Middle and High School, though adults can enjoy it I am told (or my friends are kind liars!). I’d say it took me about six years to write because I was working full time or part-time until I bought a publishing package from iUniverse. I remember that exact moment when I took the plunge. I already had three versions of my book sitting on my desk and had just completed the fourth. My writing took its time evolving. I’m kind of persistent!
I began my writing in my teens growing up on Long Island, New York. Poetry has always been my favorite means of expressing myself on paper. But, somewhere about seven years ago, I made myself a goal of writing a novel and using my skills at dialogue and character development. Crazy as it sounds, I just took a deep breath and starting writing on my computer. I had to find my prose voice. My characters’ voices. I wrote a bio of each character with details that kept growing as I wrote. I tried animal voices at first but cut out as too childish; slowly, my writing seemed to take on a character of its own, finally finding a path directly back to me and my main passions: animals, nature and the environment, and a commitment to activism.
My Editing Package helped me forge ahead. I took every one of the 95 comments and suggestions very seriously at set to work. This period was so much fun. I sat in my quiet den and worked day and night, taking time to walk my doggies and exercise. I took a solid year from my first call to iUniverse where I purchased the Premier-Pro, to working through the entire editing process. iUniverse gave me an Editor’s Choice designation and a Rising Star for my marketing plan. I knew from my Acting experience the difficulty of breaking in and getting an Agent; so I figured much of my marketing work would have to be done MYSELF. I had many helpful suggestions from the Marketing Department and researched how to write a Press Release for newspapers and articles for magazines. I bought a variety of books on Social Media Marketing. This was a bit daunting for me and I am still absorbing!!
My favorite thing of all was talking to the Production Dept. and Cover Designer about how I envisioned the look of my front and back cover. The results were astonishingly good and it was hard to decide on one of the three designed prepared for me. In the end, my daughter helped me choose. She also helped me set up a webpage where I started a spotty/occasional blog, www.sandrabdreis.com.
Now that my book is published, I try to stay connected with other writers as much as possible. I joined Winston Salem Writers and met our state’s poet laureate. So far, I have had two book signings, one at a Bookmarks event in Winston Salem and another at our local Barnes & Noble. Basically, since I live in a very small city where there is ONE bookstore, I have a lot of work to do. My favorite promotional activity so far was writing a few scenes for local teenagers to perform as a Reading at a local environmental program. It was very cool to see my characters with faces and voices! I also sold and signed thirty books that day.
I would like to get an agent and I’m trying—mostly because I have three more books in the “Ecowarriors” series to write. Book One takes place in Wisconsin; Book Two will have its setting in North Carolina where we have our share of environmental problems. I am already researching and writing notes for the second book in the series. There are four “Ecowarriors” and each book will be narrated by a different character. This time, my goal is to finish the novel in one year. Is this possible? I do this for the joy and pain of writing. The creativity and the discipline combined. Who knows? I don’t expect to get rich—only famous!
Because I am both funny and serious, there are a variety of writers who have influenced my work.. Let’s start way back when I was a kid with “Nancy Drew” and “Hardy Boys”; then, for contemporary eco-fun there is Carl Hiaason and his humorous books (“Scat”/ “Flush”/,”Hoot”); there is Todd Strasser and his YA books, some wacky and some deadly serious (“Give a Boy a Gun” and “Beast of Cretacea”). From another direction, I am certainly influenced by the great writers, John Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath) and Thomas Wolfe (Look Homeward Angel)—for their lyricism and depth. Contemporary writers, Naomi Klein (“This Changes Everything”) and British writer George Monbiot (“Feral”) have profoundly affected the way I see the world and the job awaiting all of us if Earth is to survive. Obviously, as I work on a plan to find more readers, I hope my “Ecowarriors” will inspire our youth to take an active part in preserving the beauty and integrity of nature.
I’m an active member of the Temple Emanuel Environmental Team which shows and discusses important documentaries on different and vital environmental issues every month. I donate monthly as a Sierra Club Guardian and a member of Greenpeace. My two adopted dogs, Bear and Darla, are my little treasures and I volunteer at our local Shelter for Rabies Vaccination Events. My other treasure, my daughter Haley Dreis, has produced three CDs and is a singer/songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee.
Special thanks to Sandra, and congratulations again. We look forward to the sequels!